Winograd Commission Report Blasts P.M. Olmert
May 1, 2007

Israel TV poll – Olmert 0% support, Peretz 1%

New York – The Winograd Commission, appointed by the Israeli government in the wake of last year’s war with the terrorist group Hizballah in Lebanon , has published a damning interim report which blasts the conduct of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz and the since-resigned Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Chief-of-Staff, Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz. The full report is due in August.

Numerous calls for Olmert to resign

The interim report has resulted in a wave of political and public pressure for Prime Minister Olmert to resign. Israeli Minister-without-Portfolio Eitan Cabel (Labor) resigned from the government stating “I cannot sit in a government headed by Ehud Olmert” (Washington Post, May 1). Another Labor MK, Ophir Pines-Paz has called for mass demonstrations to demand that Olmert and Peretz step down. Israel’s Channel 10 TV quoted Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni (Kadima) as telling aides Tuesday that “Olmert must go.” MK Avishai Braverman (Labor) also called for Olmert’s resignation, stating that he and Labor leadership candidate Ami Ayalon were both of the opinion that the leaders responsible for the war failures must go and that if they refuse to do so, there would be a serious risk that the public trust will be completely lost and democracy will be undermined (Jerusalem Post, May 1).

MK Marina Solodkin (Kadima) has publicly called on Olmert to step down and was also quoted as saying, ” the report that was published yesterday was so serious that according to what was written there, [Olmert] has to resign … Olmert made very big mistakes during the war. He acted with a blatant lack of responsibility. We can’t ignore what happened yesterday and what’s happening now.” The governing coalition chairman Avigdor Yitzhaki said today that he will call for Olmert to resign during a meeting of the Kadima faction on Thursday. Yitzhaki also spoke with a number of Kadima MKs on the possibility of replacing Olmert in the wake of the damning report. According to Israel’s Channel Two, almost half of Kadima’s members are expected to call for Olmert’s resignation at Thursday’s meeting. Several of those who spoke to the coalition chairman said afterward that they had discussed the need to replace Olmert immediately (Haaretz, May 1).

A poll by Israel TV Channel 2 revealed Olmert having 0% public support to remain as Prime Minister, with the preferred incumbents being Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud) polling 26%, Tzipi Livni (Kadima) 9%, Ehud Barak (Labor) 6%, Ami Ayalon (Labor) (5%), Shimon Peres (Kadima) 4%, Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beitenu) 3% and Amir Peretz (Labor) 1%.

Faced by the massive wave of pressure to resign, Olmert has now moved away from his initial statement that he had no intention of resigning, saying “I am not convinced that I will succeed in getting through this,” also adding that if he had to go, there would be no coalition left to any of his successors. Livni is now saying she believes that Olmert should resign. Earlier today, lawyer Yossi Fuchs petitioned the High Court of Justice to force Olmert to quit in the wake of the war report. Fuchs said that “the Winograd report finds Olmert personally responsible for the failures of the war which caused the deaths of hundreds of soldiers and civilians. Therefore, it is the duty of the one who is found responsible for such a serious failure to resign from his position.” A massive demonstration calling on Olmert to resign is being organized for Tel Aviv and demonstrations in other cities are expected ( Jerusalem Post, May 1).

Excerpts from the summary of the Winograd Commission Interim Report:

  • “The Prime Minister made up his mind hastily, despite the fact that no detailed military plan was submitted to him and without asking for one. Also, his decision was made without close study of the complex features of the Lebanon front and of the military, political and diplomatic options available to Israel. He made his decision without systematic consultation with others, especially outside the IDF, despite not having experience in external-political and military affairs. In addition, he did not adequately consider political and professional reservations presented to him before the fateful decisions of July 12th .” (12.b)

  • “The Prime Minister bears supreme and comprehensive responsibility for the decisions of ‘his’ government and the operations of the army. His responsibility for the failures in the initial decisions concerning the war stem from both his position and from his behavior, as he initiated and led the decisions which were taken.” ( 12.a)

  • “The Prime Minister is responsible for the fact that the goals of the campaign were not set out clearly and carefully, and that there was no serious discussion of the relationships between these goals and the authorized modes of military action.”( 12.c)

  • “The Prime Minister did not adapt his plans once it became clear that the assumptions and expectations of Israel’s actions were not realistic and were not materializing.” (12.d)

  • All of these add up to a serious failure in exercising judgment, responsibility and prudence .” (12.e)

  • “The primary responsibility for these serious failings rests with the Prime Minister, the Minister of Defense and the (outgoing) Chief of Staff. We single out these three because it is likely that had any of them acted better — the decisions in the relevant period and the ways they were made, as well as the outcome of the war, would have been significantly better.” (11)

  • “The Minister of Defense did not have knowledge or experience in military, political or governmental matters. He also did not have good knowledge of the basic principles of using military force to achieve political goals.” ( 13.a)

  • “Despite these serious gaps, he made his decisions during this period without systemic consultations with experienced political and professional experts, including outside the security establishment. In addition, he did not give adequate weight to reservations expressed in the meetings he attended.” ( 13.b)

  • The Minister of Defense [Amir Peretz] did not act within a strategic conception of the systems he oversaw. He did not ask for the IDF’s operational plans and did not examine them; he did not check the preparedness and fitness of IDF; and did not examine the fit between the goals set and the modes of action presented and authorized for achieving them. His influence on the decisions made was mainly pointillist and operational. He did not put on the table — and did not demand presentation – of serious strategic options for discussion with the Prime Minister and the IDF .” (13.c)

  • The Minister of Defense did not develop an independent assessment of the implications of the complexity of the front for Israel’s proper response, the goals of the campaign, and the relations between military and diplomatic moves within it. His lack of experience and knowledge prevented him from challenging in a competent way both the IDF, over which he was in charge, and the Prime Minister .” (13.d)

  • “In all these ways, the Minister of Defense failed in fulfilling his functions. Therefore, his serving as Minister of Defense during the war impaired Israel’s ability to respond well to its challenges.” (13.e)

  • “The army and the COS [Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz] were not prepared for the event of the abduction despite recurring alerts. When the abduction happened, he responded impulsively. He did not alert the political leaders to the complexity of the situation, and did not present information, assessments and plans that were available in the IDF at various levels of planning and approval and which would have enabled a better response to the challenges.” ( 14.a)

  • Among other things, the COS did not alert the political echelon to the serious shortcomings in the preparedness and the fitness of the armed forces for an extensive ground operation, if that became necessary. In addition, he did not clarify that the military assessments and analyses of the arena were that a military strike against Hizbullah will with a high probability make such a move necessary .” (14.b)

  • “The COS’s responsibility is aggravated by the fact that he knew well that both the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defense lacked adequate knowledge and experience in these matters, and by the fact that he had led them to believe that the IDF was ready and prepared and had operational plans fitting the situation.” ( 14.c)

  • “The COS did not provide adequate responses to serious reservations about his recommendations raised by ministers and others during the first days of the campaign, and he did not present to the political leaders the internal debates within the IDF concerning the fit between the stated goals and the authorized modes of actions.” ( 14.d)

  • “In all these the Chief of Staff failed in his duties as commander in chief of the army and as a critical part of the political-military leadership, and exhibited flaws in professionalism, responsibility and judgment. ( 14.e)

  • “Despite this broad [parliamentary and public] support, we determine that there are very serious failings in these decisions and the way they were made. We impose the primary responsibility for these failures on the Prime Minister, the Minister of Defense and the (outgoing) Chief of Staff. All three made a decisive personal contribution to these decisions and the way in which they were made .” (9)

  • “Initially we hoped that the appointment of the Commission will serve as an incentive to accelerate learning processes in the relevant systems … However, learning processes have been limited. In some ways an opposite, and worrying, process emerged — a process of ‘waiting’ for the Commission’s Report before energetic and determined action is taken to redress failures which have been revealed.” (5)

  • “The decision to respond with an immediate, intensive military strike was not based on a detailed, comprehensive and authorized military plan, based on careful study of the complex characteristics of the Lebanon arena. A meticulous examination of these characteristics would have revealed the following: the ability to achieve military gains having significant political-international weight was limited; an Israeli military strike would inevitably lead to missiles fired at the Israeli civilian north; there was not other effective military response to such missile attacks than an extensive and prolonged ground operation to capture the areas from which the missiles were fired” ( 10.a)

  • “The support in the cabinet for this move was gained in part through ambiguity in the presentation of goals and modes of operation” ( 10.c)

  • “The IDF did not exhibit creativity in proposing alternative action possibilities, did not alert the political decision-makers to the discrepancy between its own scenarios and the authorized modes of action, and did not demand — as was necessary under its own plans — early mobilization of the reserves so they could be equipped and trained in case a ground operation would be required” ( 10.e)

  • “Even after these facts became known to the political leaders, they failed to adapt the military way of operation and its goals to the reality on the ground. On the contrary, declared goals were too ambitious, and it was publicly stated that fighting will continue till they are achieved. But the authorized military operations did not enable their achievement.” (10.f)

  • “The primary responsibility for these serious failings rests with the Prime Minister, the Minister of Defense and the (outgoing) Chief of Staff. We single out these three because it is likely that had any of them acted better — the decisions in the relevant period and the ways they were made, as well as the outcome of the war, would have been significantly better.” (11)

  • “The ability of Hizbullah to sit ‘on the border’, its ability to dictate the moment of escalation, and the growth of its military abilities and missile arsenal increased significantly as a result of Israel’s unilateral withdrawal in May 2000. “ (15.b)

  • “The shortcomings in the preparedness and the training of the army, its operational doctrine, and various flaws in its organizational culture and structure, were all the responsibility of the military commanders and political leaders in charge years before the present Prime Minister, Minister of Defense and Chief of Staff took office.” ( 15.c)

  • “… the lack of preparedness was also caused by the failure to update and fully articulate Israel’s security strategy doctrine, in the fullest sense of that term, so that it could not serve as a basis for coping comprehensively with all the challenges facing Israel. Responsibility for this lack of an updated national security strategy lies with Israel’s governments over the years. This omission made it difficult to devise an immediate proper response to the abduction.” (15.d) ( Jerusalem Post, April 30).

ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “The Olmert government deserves credit for having appointed an independent commission to review the management and decision-making surrounding last summer’s Lebanon war. Clearly such a commission would never be held in any of the Arab/Muslim dictatorships that surround Israel. Nonetheless, the Winograd interim report is a strong indictment of the government’s actions and conduct from the Prime Minister down and is all the more striking in its criticism as it was appointed by the government itself. Yet, as the newspaper Haaretz has editorialized, the report ‘contains not even one lenient word to which the Prime Minister could cling in order to prolong his term.’ Above all, the Winograd report speaks emphatically about basic lack of judgment and competence displayed by the Prime Minister, Defense Minister and Chief-of-Staff. These are the gravest problems which cannot be remedied by any report, however impartial, meticulous and detailed. We fully appreciate the serious nature of the report’s assessment and why so many are calling for this leadership to step down. The ZOA fears that the situation arising from last year’s Lebanon war has witnessed a deterioration in Israel’s security situation in the north in that Hizbullah now has even more missiles than it had before the war. There is also great concern about the situation in Gaza since Egypt has permitted over 30 tons of heavy weapons to be transferred from Egypt into Gaza to the Hamas/Fatah terrorist regime. There is also deep concern about Syria’s having a significant number of missiles facing Israel. In light of these very serious threats now facing Israel, it is an imperative that Israel immediately undertake all the recommendations contained in this report.”

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